Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This blog entry was prompted after reading the blog article
Are You Trustworthy?
by Sonia Simone on the blog Copyblogger. The article argues that businesses should value trust between themselves and their readers and how an important element of building that trust comes from showing that there was an actual human being behind a blog. Simone recommended attaching a photo (and a recent, non-glamorous one!) to ones blog so that people would have some idea of who the author is.

There were a lot of comments praising the article but one sentence by Doug Firebaugh stood out for me: “Being human is all to easy-showing it sometimes is difficult.”

Showing your humanness means not only showing those parts of ourselves which are endearing, admirable, or attractive but also showing those parts of ourselves that fail, that misjudge others, that are reluctant to publicly acknowledge our mistakes. It's hard to be vulnerable and show ones weaknesses & flaws to an audience who may or may not empathize with you.

I remember writing a response to another blog entry once in which the author had said, "Everyone loves attention." Well, not all attention is good attention. Growing up in an alcoholic family for six years, the only attention the kids in my family got was negative attention or praise when someone else made a mistake ("Good thing you're not like your sister!").

We all had our ways of coping...my younger sister played up her youth and adorableness, my brother only came home at night to sleep & was absent for the rest of the day & evening, and I tried my best to fade into the wallpaper and not draw attention to myself. Being singled out meant you were going to be the target of criticism so it was best to just become as small and inconspicuous as possible, to become invisible.

It took having a completely liberating & hedonistic undergraduate experience to make me less afraid to shine, to speak out, to make myself be known. I had a successful part-time career on a large community radio station and for six years I had a prime time show. We were only a 5,000 watt station but because the land was flat, our coverage had a 45 mile wide radius where hundreds of thousand people lived.

I found that the self-consciousness arising out of having someone who was always critical watching me still affected me though and the only way I could pull off each show was by having everyone else get out of the studio, facing the mike alone, and talking to the audience as if they were my best friend. It seemed to work very well but I eventually realized I was not commercial enough for a professional career in broadcasting as I had no wish to sell products to my "friends", I just wanted to share my love of music with them, take their requests, interview bands they liked & ask the questions they would've asked, and give away stuff (albums, tickets, t-shirts, etc.). The show wasn't about me it was about the live conversation I was having with people who loved the same kind of music I did or who were at least open to hearing new music I thought they would enjoy or find challenging. The audience was appreciative and the job was the most fun & educational experience I ever had had in my life.

What does this have to do with showing your humanness? I think we can waver between our desire to be invisible and to be visible based on how secure we are in our relationships with ourselves. If we feel loved & supported, one can much more easily step out into the spotlight and face any praise or criticism that might come your way. When we feel like we are on shaky ground, when we feel hostility & judgment from others, or are just in an unfamiliar area (a neighborhood, a clique of people, a discussion board), we might either try to be as unobtrusive as possible or to only want to show the most flattering aspects to our personality.

We come from a place of insecurity because we don't believe that someone has our back, will understand our occasional lapses into self-absorption, will forgive how we might intentionally cause another person pain.

So, I think our desire to publicly face our humanness, to be visible to others, can only come after we have been affirmed by others, when we have a support system whether that is a family, a network of friends, or simply an employer or professor who believes in your ability.

It is fashionable now to believe the sole key to success is high self-esteem but I think we are infinitely stronger and can be more truly ourselves, online & offline when we feel valued by other people. That makes us vulnerable to their influence in our lives but the good news is that it only takes ONE other person to make us feel like we can stand up, be human, take what life throws at us, and turn it into gold.